Palestinian Authority to restore ties with Israel

The PA had cut ties with Israel in May after it announced plans to annex parts of the West Bank. The proposal for restoration of relations comes after assurances by Israel of a return to the status quo before May

November 19, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Palestinian Legislative Council building, Ramallah. Photo: Wikimedia commons

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) in the occupied West Bank has announced that it will resume security and other civilian cooperation with the state of Israel, which it had terminated in May this year when Israel had released annexation plan to take over large parts of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.

Palestinian Authority’s (PA) civil affairs minister, Hussein al-Sheikh, in a tweet on Tuesday, November 17, said that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has expressed his willingness to restore relations with Israel after the PA received ‘official and oral letters’ from Israel which confirmed its commitment to honoring past agreements between the two sides, adding that the relations will go back to “how they were” before May.

The Ramallah-based PA in the occupied West Bank had terminated the security, intelligence and other coordination with Israel in May in protest against Israel’s plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.

The PA’s decision to restore relations with Israel also comes after the latter announced the postponement of its annexation plan post its “normalization deals” with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The restoration of ties will include Palestinian-Israeli coordination on financial matters, health matters, as well as political and security issues, according to Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. He also signaled the PA’s willingness to enter into negotiations with Israel regarding any other longstanding pending issues and differences.

However, the decision to restore ties with Israel has been met with anger and opposition among Palestinians, especially the other Palestinian political parties who accuse the PA of taking this decision in a unilateral, arbitrary fashion. The decision also threatens to put in jeopardy the ongoing reconciliation talks between the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement and the Fatah party that were held on Sunday in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Hamas has already condemned the PA’s decision, saying that it is nothing but “going back to cooperating with an occupying power.”

Another reason for the PA to make this decision, analysts say, could be the fact that it would enable the PA to receive more than 890 million dollars worth of tax revenues from the state of Israel that it collects on the PA’s behalf and that it was holding as ransom and refusing to release since the termination of ties. As a result, the PA was forced to reduce the salaries of Palestinian civil servants and faced a funds crunch that adversely affected its plans to contain the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Others such as Palestinian-American lawyer and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement(ISM), Huwaida Arraf, have questioned the legality of PA’s decision, since the decision to suspend cooperation with Israel in May was taken by the PLO Central Committee, which is comprised of several other Palestinian political parties and the PA has reversed that decision without even consulting with the others. The decision also completely overlooks the other illegal and unilateral moves by the state of Israel that were taken in tandem and with the support of the US government under president Donald Trump, including moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing it as the capital of Israel, along with unveiling the very one-sided, heavily biased and widely condemned US Middle East Peace Plan, also called the ‘Deal of the Century’.